14 February 2013

From Bengal Famine to Right to Food

February 13, 2013
By M. S. Swaminathan

While there is reason to be proud of the progress in the production of wheat, rice, cereals and millets, the use of farmland for non-farm purposes is a cause for concern

The year 2013 marks the 70th anniversary of the Bengal Famine which resulted in the death of an estimated 1.5 to 3 million children, women and men during 1942-43. A constellation of factors led to this mega-tragedy, such as the Japanese occupation of Burma, the damage to the aman (kharif) rice crop both due to tidal waves and a disease epidemic caused by the fungus Helminthosporium oryzae, panic purchase and hoarding by the rich, failure of governance, particularly in relation to the equitable distribution of the available food grains, disruption of communication due to World War II, and the indifference of the then U.K. government to the plight of the starving people of undivided Bengal.

Famines were frequent in colonial India and some estimates indicate that 30 to 40 million died out of starvation in Tamil Nadu, Bihar and Bengal during the later half of the 19th century. This led to the formulation of elaborate Famine Codes by the then colonial government, indicating the relief measures that should be put in place when crops fail.

The Bengal Famine attracted much attention both among the media and the public, since it occurred soon after Mahatma Gandhi’s “Quit India” call to the British in 1942. Agricultural stagnation and famines were regarded among the major adverse consequences of colonial rule. I wish to narrate the impact of the twin developments, namely, Bengal Famine on the one hand, and the “Quit India” movement on the other, on the minds of students like me. I was studying at the University College, Thiruvananthapuram, during 1940-44, when gruesome pictures of starving children, women and men on the streets of Kolkata and in other parts of Bengal appeared in The Hindu, theStatesman and other newspapers. The goal of my University education was to get into a medical college and equip myself to run a hospital in Kumbakonam left behind by my father, M.K. Sambasivan, who died at a young age in 1936.

At the Largest Gathering of Humanity, Who Takes Out the Trash?

By Krista Mahr / Allahabad
Feb. 12, 2013


Hindu devotees walk past a pile of trash after taking a dip at the Sangam, or the confluence of the Yamuna, Ganges and mythical Saraswati rivers, at sunrise during Kumbh Mela in Allahabad, India, on Feb. 12, 2013

There is perhaps nowhere in the world where people strip down with such gusto as they do on the banks of the Ganges during the Kumbh Mela. On Feb. 10, some 30 million pilgrims converged on a narrow strip of riverfront in Allahabad, India, ditching their sweaters, pants, saris, skirts, T-shirts, scarves, sandals and whatever other garments stood in their way between this mortal coil and a little salvation. Some tiptoed gingerly into the murky water, plugging their noses as they went under; others ran in with a battle cry. But every pilgrim washed their sins away in the water on that holy day, when the stars and planets aligned for a fleeting moment to spill life-giving nectar from the heavens into the Mother Ganges.

As the faithful left, dripping and shivering, workers in orange vests swooped in to collect the thousands of orphaned sandals, sweaters, vests, T-shirts and scarves, clearing the way for the next wave of bathers to come and start it all over again. The mounds of soggy clothes left behind are a small part of the massive amount of waste being generated every day at this year’s Kumbh Mela, the gathering that happens every 12 years in northern India. This Kumbh, 100 million pilgrims are expected to make their way to the river’s edge during the 55-day event, and they will create some 200 tons of garbage every day. Getting that trash out of the hundreds of camps and clearings where people sleep and eat during the pilgrimage is not just a sanitary and logistical necessity, it’s an opportunity. The central government will spend over $220 million on this year’s Kumbh Mela, but officials estimate that 15 to 20 times more will be generated in jobs and businesses supporting the event.

India, China: Talk of the town

Feb 13, 2013 

By Austin Williams

As an architect living in Suzhou, just outside Shanghai, I have become blasé about the skyline being transformed before my very eyes. The classic view of Shanghai’s towering waterfront may not represent great architecture, but it’s impressive all the same… and constantly improving.

In most cities across China it is the same story: high-speed construction activity, modernisation, transformation and skyscrapers everywhere. There is a palpable sense of opportunity pending — what the émigrés to America must have felt when arriving in New York 100 years ago. While many Western commentators point to the failures (the accidents, the pollution and the corruption) with an unremitting Schadenfreude, China marches on. Where else can you watch a modern city grow and change in real time?

Where else, indeed?

I hadn’t been to Kolkata for 30 years. Then, it had been a crumbling, anarchic, messy, congested, dusty, frantic confusion of people, cars and animals. I was looking forward to seeing how a country with similar economic growth rates to China had fared in its architectural aspirations. Tellingly, almost nothing had changed. The main city still combined a lack of basic infrastructure and a shaky superstructure. Its sense of urban cohesion seemed to reflect a desperation to hold things together rather than any real conscious urban strategy. However, instead of central-urban regeneration, the real changes were happening on the fringes, the satellite cities and the new town developments. This is repeated throughout India: from Gurgaon to Navi Mumbai to Lavasa, Pune.

In short, urbanism in China is clean, sanitised and exciting; India’s is grimy, raw… and exciting. Undoubtedly, China’s “ruthless” ambition to build the future comes with caveats, but so do India’s bureaucratic, fragmented ambitions. In both places, construction standards are low, workmanship is poor (and so are the working conditions), air quality is bad and the architecture leaves a lot to be desired. But that is the price of progress and simply to attempt such a huge range of urban transformations — from within urban centres or outside the existing urban fringe — is admirable. “Make no small plans,” said New York’s no-nonsense city planner Robert Moses. We all know that mistakes will be made, but India and China prove that that is no excuse for not trying.

India’s Education System Fails to Make the Grade

Knowledge Today
January 31, 2013 

Children between the ages of six and 14 belonging to the economically weaker sections of society in India are entitled to free education under the Right to Education (RTE) Act. But going by the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) for 2012, which was released earlier this month, it may take a lot more to ensure that the quality of education imparted to those children is of acceptable standards. 

ASER is the largest annual household survey of children in rural India focusing on the status of schooling and basic learning. Facilitated by Pratham, a Mumbai-based NGO, ASER 2012 covered over 330,000 households and about 600,000 children in the age group of three to 16. 

According to the report, around 13% of children in grades one to five could not read at all and around 11% were not able recognize numbers from one to nine. Only 46.8% of all children in grade five were able to read a grade two level text. This number, in fact, has been declining over the past two years from 53.7% in 2010 and 48.2% in 2011. In mathematics, too, there has been a significant drop. In 2010, 70.9% of the children enrolled in grade five were able to solve simple two-digit subtraction problems with borrowing. This proportion declined to 61% in 2011 and 53.5% in 2012. 

The report also points out that the decline in reading levels is higher among children in government schools as compared to those in private schools. At present, over 90% of schools in India are either run directly by the government or are government funded. But according to ASER 2012, in the six to 14 age group, enrollment in private schools across the country has increased from 18.7% in 2006 to 28.3% in 2012. The report adds: “If this trend continues, by 2018 India may have 50% of children attending private schools even in rural areas.” In contrast, in the U.S. more than 80% of children attend public schools and in U.K., this number is over 90%. 

Afghan Endgame

By Mark Thompson
Feb. 13, 2013

President Obama announces the coming end of the war in Afghanistan. Vice President Joe Biden stands and applauds, while House Speaker John Boehner remains seated. 

No longer any point in pretending. The U.S. is in such a rush to pull out of Afghanistan, it is risking the sacrifice of 2,086 U.S. troops and more than a half-trillion dollars to put the “graveyard of empires” in its rear-view mirror. 

U.S. troops attend a change of command ceremony in Kabul on Feb. 10, 2013. 

President Obama declared in his State of the Union address Tuesday night that 34,000 U.S. troops now in Afghanistan will come home within a year. That will slash the total U.S. troop presence there from the current 66,000 to 32,000. 
“This drawdown will continue, and by the end of next year our war in Afghanistan will be over,” Obama declared, as Vice President Joe Biden rose and applauded behind him, while House Speaker John Boehner remained resolutely seated. “It’s true different al-Qaida affiliates and extremist groups have emerged — from the Arabian peninsula to Africa. The threat these groups pose is evolving. But to meet this threat, we don’t need to send tens of thousands of our sons and daughters abroad, or occupy other nations.” 

Obama’s troop pullout is based on a pretty simple calculus: 

1. The American public is fed up with war in general, and the Afghan war in particular. 

2. The prolonged presence of U.S. troops in Afghanistan is unlikely to change its eventual outcome. 

3. So let’s bring them home as quickly as possible to rid ourselves of what had been a logically-launched war, but became an ill-considered occupation. 

The men who would lead Pakistan

By Shamila N. Chaudhary 
February 13, 2013 

The current Pakistani government, led by the Pakistan People's Party (PPP), ends its term on March 18. The government is expected to announce a date for elections before the end of its term. Once the election date is set, the National Assembly will automatically dissolve and a caretaker government will assume charge for up to ninety days before the election.

On polling day, Pakistanis will elect 272 representatives to the National Assembly and 577 representatives to provincial assemblies in Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Punjab, and Balochistan. The political party that secures 172 seats in the National Assembly, either independently or in coalition with other parties, will lead the next government. 

Politics is a riddled and opaque game in Pakistan, a point driven home by former politician-turned preacher Tahir-ul Qadri, who despite his absence from Pakistani politics for eight years, was able to lead a 50,000-strong march into Islamabad last month pushing for electoral reforms - and actually won the government's commitment on some counts. Things are about to get even more complicated as the country prepares for national elections.

The campaign landscape is littered with the typical coterie of political party stalwarts, children of political dynasties, technocrats, and current and former army generals looking to shape the elections outcome. But three individuals stand out as possible leaders of Pakistan's next government - Asif Ali Zardari, Nawaz Sharif, and Imran Khan. Zardari and Sharif represent the old guard of politics - Zardari the widower of a political dynast and Sharif an industrialist from the country's breadbasket of Punjab. Khan claims to represent a new political wave, seeking to capture the desires of roughly 18 million new voters, young people who grew up watching Khan win cricket matches for the Pakistani national team. The profiles of the three men who would lead Pakistan promise elections that will be as entertaining as they will be historic.

The AfPak Channel's Top 10 of 2012

By Jennifer Rowland and Peter Bergen 
February 13, 2013

Better late than never? We know it's already halfway through February of 2013, but we'd still like to say congratulations to the authors whose AfPak Channel articles received the most views in 2012. The results reveal that AfPak Channel readers have varied interests -- from gender issues in Pakistan to Afghanistan's uncertain future to the controversy over U.S. drone strikes. If you haven't already read these, you can get started by following the links below, which are arranged in the order of views received, starting with the most-read.

1. Pakistan's almost suicide bombers, by Hussain Nadim 

5. Imran Khan's new Pakistan, by Kiran Nazish 

7. Putting the Afghans in charge, by Roger D. Carstens 

9. The dishonorable defense of honor, by Rabail Baig 

10. Fixing Pakistan's tanking economy, by David Walters 

Big thank you to all of our contributors for their hard work, excellent analysis, and love for all things AfPak. 

Beijing’s North Korea Problem

February 14, 2013

By Elizabeth C. Economy 

North Korea's recent nuclear test presents an interesting problem for China -- with no easy solutions.

A few months ago, the eminent Chinese scholar Wang Jisi noted that China had achieved “first class power status” and “should be treated as such.” The current situation with North Korea suggests two responses: There is scarcely a more opportune moment for Beijing to step up to the plate; and be careful what you wish for.

Here is what we know about China and the current crisis with North Korea: Beijing doesn’t know what to do. Before North Korea’s nuclear test, the state-supported newspaper Global Times asserted that China should “seize initiative in NK issues” and argued, “…if North Korea insists on a third nuclear test despite attempts to dissuade it, it must pay a heavy price. The assistance it will be able to receive from China should be reduced.” After the test, the official news agency Xinhua argued that the “DPRK’s defiance was deeply rooted in its strong sense of insecurity after years of confrontation with South Korea, Japan and a militarily more superior United States.” In other words, Beijing was back to blaming everyone else for the DPRK’s actions.

Chinese foreign policy analysts are also divided over how to approach North Korea. As early as December 2010, Chinese scholar Zhu Feng referred to China’s continued support of North Korea as an example of Beijing’s “obsolete ideology” and noted that Chinese thinking on North Korea is “no longer monolithic” and, in fact, “no foreign-policy issue is more divisive.” The BBC’s roundup of Chinese scholars’ views suggests Zhu is right. Ruan Zongze, deputy director of the China Institute of International Studies, stated that China had already “made huge efforts” and “developments on the Korean Peninsula do not just depend on China.” And Fudan University scholar Shen Dingli argued that the United States “will eventually accept North Korea’s nuclear weapons.” Major-General Xu Guangyu, however, said that North Korea’s “military first politics is wrong” and UN sanctions will be unavoidable.

Giants, but Not Hegemons


February 13, 2013

WASHINGTON — Today, many fear that the emerging American-Chinese duopoly must inevitably lead to conflict. But I do not believe that wars for global domination are a serious prospect in what is now the Post-Hegemonic Age.

Admittedly, the historical record is dismal. Since the onset of global politics 200 years ago, four long wars (including the Cold War) were fought over the domination of Europe, each of which could have resulted in global hegemony by a sole superpower.

Yet several developments over recent years have changed the equation. Nuclear weapons make hegemonic wars too destructive, and thus victory meaningless. One-sided national economic triumphs cannot be achieved in the increasingly interwoven global economy without precipitating calamitous consequences for everyone. Further, the populations of the world have awakened politically and are not so easily subdued, even by the most powerful. Last but not least, neither the United States nor China is driven by hostile ideologies.

Moreover, despite our very different political systems, both our societies are, in different ways, open. That, too, offsets pressure from within each respective society toward animus and hostility. More than 100,000 Chinese are students at American universities, and thousands of young Americans study and work in China or participate in special study or travel programs. Unlike in the former Soviet Union, millions of Chinese regularly travel abroad. And millions of young Chinese are in daily touch with the world through the Internet.

All this contrasts greatly with the societal self-isolation of the 19th- and 20th-century contestants for global power, which intensified grievances, escalated hostility and made it easier to demonize the one another.

Nonetheless, we cannot entirely ignore the fact that the hopeful expectation in recent years of an amicable American-Chinese relationship has lately been tested by ever more antagonistic polemics, especially in the mass media of both sides. This has been fueled in part by speculation about America’s allegedly inevitable decline and about China’s relentless, rapid rise.

Japan’s Looming Singularity

February 12, 2013
By  Claus Vistesen and Edward Hugh

According to Wikipedia, in complex analysis an essential singularity of a function is a “severe” singularity near which the function exhibits extreme behavior. The category essential singularity is a “left-over” or default group of singularities that are especially unmanageable: by definition they fit into neither of the other two categories of singularity that may be dealt with in some manner – removable singularities and poles. 

No need to panic, a lot of analysts tell us, since far from being on the verge of some earth shattering event Japan has invented the economic equivalent of a mechanical perpetual motion machine. Or as Nobel economist Paul Krugman put it recently, “while there is much shaking of heads about Japanese debt, the ill-effects if any of that debt are by no means obvious”. Maybe there is just one word missing here – yet.

This, however, will not be the viewpoint taken here. The rise and rise of Japanese debt is far from benign, and the dynamic, we are convinced, will at some point become unsustainable. Unfortunately by the time we reach that point it will be too late. Indeed, given that we agree with Krugman that the underlying cause of Japan’s malaise is demographic, after several decades of ultra-low fertility in all probability it already is too late. The root of the problem is, as he says – wait for it – that there is “a shortage of Japanese”.

Far from being like that woeful economist so tellingly characterised by Keynes, the one who through many travails and pages and pages of equations is only able to tell us that when the storm is long past the ocean is flat again, we feel we have more in common with the character so ably played by Mike Shannon in the Jeff Nichols’ film “Take Shelter” – “there’s a storm comin, one like none of you have ever seen before….”

Is the World Ready for a Great Rebalancing?

By James Parker
February 14, 2013

The United States should be relieved, not distraught, if the dollar’s use as the sole global reserve currency were to come to an end — as some believe may soon happen. The 2007/8 Global Financial Crisis (GFC) has not been resolved, and China is yet to face the worst of its effects. German domestic policies post-unification were as much responsible for the Eurozone debt crisis as any domestic factors in the affected countries. The Eurozone debt crisis will continue to affect Spanish and European politics and will probably lead to Spain and other countries leaving the Euro absent a strong fiscal union or a transformation of Germany’s economic model. China’s rebalancing, when it properly begins, will see GDP growth rates fall to below 5% and will average around 3% for a decade, but this will not be a disaster for China. Trade tensions are set to rise until global imbalances are resolved.

If any of the above predictions seem to contradict what readers have seen in the financial or mainstream press recently, they would be recommended to get a copy of Peking University Professor Michael Pettis’ new book The Great Rebalancing: Trade, Conflict, and the Perilous Road Ahead for the World Economy.Professor Pettis is very well known amongst China finance watchers, and his blog is a must read for many who have interests in China’s economy or financial system. 

Pettis bases much of The Great Rebalancing’s content on fairly simple economic accounting identities (necessary truths) concerning the relationship between any country’s domestic savings and investment rates, production and consumption rates, and external current and capital accounts. Building off these, he creates a book full of easy-to-understand, yet often misunderstood theories, explanations and predictions for what went wrong internationally before the 2008 Financial Crisis, what has been going on since, and where things are likely to head in the future. A key area of his argument is that any domestic policy which affects the relationship between savings and investment or production and consumption has a trade effect, whether or not it is intended as such. 

Realizing the Potential of Unconventional Natural Gas--Executive Summary

By Sarah O. Ladislaw, David Pumphrey, Frank A. Verrastro, Lisa A. Hyland, and Molly A. Walton 

FEB 12, 2013 

The ability to access and economically develop vast amounts of America’s unconventional natural gas resources, especially large shale gas formations, has altered our national view on energy and has subsequently changed the discourse at the federal, state, and local levels. Since 2008, when the economic viability of shale gas resources first became widely recognized, policymakers and industry leaders have worked to better understand the nature of this resource; the risks and opportunities associated with its production, transport, and use; and the potential strategic implications of the United States’ new energy reality.

The paradox of the U.S. unconventional gas story is that the technologies and industry practices that made it possible have been decades in the making; the public policy and commercial landscape is vastly different from just a few years ago; and the story of this remarkable resource development is still in its infancy. In an attempt to capture the current state of play with respect to resource development, operational practices, risk identification and mitigation, impacts assessment and identify strategies that allow this valuable resource to be prudently developed, the CSIS Energy and National Security Program undertook this Unconventional Gas Initiative. Over the course of the past year, the authors were able—in concert with industry and nongovernmental organization (NGO) supporters—to work with a wide array of regulators, policymakers, environmental, industry and financial groups, academics and community stakeholders to capture the latest understanding of the unconventional gas development picture and develop themes and findings in the hope of facilitating an informed discussion on a path forward.

Cyber, drone operators now eligible for 'Distinguished Warfare' medal

By Charles Cooper
February 13, 2013

The first new medal out of the Defense Department since the 1944 creation of the Bronze Star recognizes the growing importance of cyberwarfare and drone strikes.

The Global Hawk, built by Northrop Grumman, features a bulging forehead. What you can't see is all the high-tech gear it's packing.(Credit: Stephen Shankland/CNET) 

The Pentagon is expected to announce today the creation of a medal that can be awarded to drone operators as well as to individuals fighting in the cyberwar trenches.
The Distinguished Warfare Medal.(Credit: DOD) 

This would be a first. The Distinguished Warfare Medal, a nearly two-inch-tall brass pendant below a ribbon with blue, red and white stripes, will be handed out to people judged to have racked up "extraordinary achievement" directly tied to a combat operation but at a far remove from the actual battlefield, according to the Associated Press, which first reported the news. This is said to be the first new combat-related award since the 1944 creation of the Bronze Star. 

In taking this step, the Pentagon is explicitly recognizing the increasing importance of cyberwar and drone activities to the nation's defense complex. Indeed, the U.S. Air Force is on record predicting that by 2023 one-third of its attack and fighter planes will be drones.

Update 1:36 p.m. PT: The Defense Department has just announced theDistinguished Warfare Medal. In a statement, it gave two examples of the kinds of exceptional achievements that might merit the new medal: 

The Pentagon is expanding its smartphone for spies program

By John Reed
January 7, 2013

While the rest of the DC press corps is talking about Chuck Hagel's qualifications to be the next defense secretary, Killer Apps is lucky enough to be writing about smart phones. Secret smart phones, that is. That's right, the National Security Agency and the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) are set to expand the program that gives government officials Android-based smart phones and tablets capable of handling classified information.

"The Fishbowl pilot is continuing. There is a small number of devices that have been issued primarily to organizations like the White House Communications Agency so they can evaluate them as potential devices for national leaders," David Mihelcic, DISA's chief technology officer, told Killer Apps after a speech in Arlington, Va. "But really Fishbowl is going to cease to exist, and it will be subsumed by [a program called] Commercial for Classified Solutions."

DISA is working to improve on technology developed for the Fishbowl project -- which Killer Appsreported on in September -- meant to provide everyone from senior government officials to spies with commercially based smart phones and tablets capable of handling supersensitive information.

"Initially, you're going to see Android-based [devices] because it is essentially extending the Fishbowl" effort, said Mihelcic. "But the goal moving forward is to be vendor-agnostic and operating system-agnostic, but the vendors and the OS's have to meet NSA's security requirements."

How does the U.S. minimum wage compare to those around the world?

By Elias Groll
February 13, 2013

In his State of the Union address last night, President Barack Obama announced that he would seek to raise the federal minimum wage to $9 an hour, a measure that would form the centerpiece of an agenda aimed at reducing incoming inequality in the United States.

That announcement got us wondering: How does the U.S. minimum wage stack up against the minimum wage in other countries? The answer depends somewhat on how one chooses to measure the minimum wage and the standard against which it is measured.

One handy way of comparing the minimum wage across borders is to measure it relative to median full-time wages, which indicates the gap between the lowest wage earners and the mid-point of the income spectrum. On that measurement, the U.S. minimum wage is about 38 percent of the median, which is indicative of high levels of income inequality in the United States. Countries like Australia, Belgium, France, Ireland, and New Zealand have both higher absolute minimum wages and minimum wages that fall closer to median wages. In other words, living on the minimum wage in one of those countries puts an individual much closer to achieving a median income than it would in the United States. Unstated in all of this, of course, is that the United States is significantly wealthier than all of these countries. The graph below, courtesy of the International Labor Organization, illustrates the distribution. 

US Strategy, Sequestration, and the Growing Strategy-Reality Gap

By Anthony H. Cordesman, Robert M. Shelala
FEB 11, 2013

As the March deadline for sequestration fast approaches, recent reporting by the Congressional Budget Office. Office of Management and Budget, the Department of Defense, and the military services have shown the damage sudden across-the-board cuts could have on national security and strategic planning. At the same time, a broader a review of US strategy and defense programming and budget problems shows that the cuts threatened by the Budget Control Act are only part of the problem. 

A new brief by the Burke Chair analyzes the forces driving the crisis, defense spending, the latest data on sequestration, and the broader strategic and budgetary risks shaping US Future Year Defense Spending. This study is entitled US Strategy, Sequestration, and the Growing Strategy-Reality Gap.

The brief provides a service-by-service assessment of the aspects of the defense budget that are jeopardized by sequestration, based on the latest unclassified information from the Department of Defense and from statements made by senior officials. It highlights how sequestration can affect the impact of defense spending on total federal spending and the US economy. 

It provides detailed graphs and tables showing the pressures on defense spending caused by growing expenditures on domestic entitlement spending, how these interact with the impact of the Budget Control Act and sequestration, and the problems caused by the Department’s failures to make realistic force plans and budget projections to bring its costs under control. It also highlights the far underlying problems that are driving the rise in entitlement spending – particularly Medicare and Social Security. 

At the same time, the brief highlights the problems in a US strategy that lacks coherence and is not based upon real world force plans, personnel plans, and procurement plans. It shows the Department of Defense has failed to shape a real world mix of strategy and plans. It has also failed to bring its costs under control, formulate realistic plans and budgets, and close the gap between its strategy and the need for realistic plans and budgets. 

Sri Lanka: India losing patience with Rajapaksa

By Col. R. Hariharan  

President Mahinda Rajapaksa is well known for wrongly timing his foreign visits. In the past his India visits were more successful than his European sojourns because they were diplomatically ‘tenderized’ in advance to avoid any embarrassment to the President. 

His two-day ‘pilgrimage’ trip, with an entourage of 70, to Tirupati and Gaya after a stopover at Chennai that ended on February 8, 2013, ‘pilgrimate’ visit was also probably tenderized in advance. But this time, it completely failed for two reasons. 

The first was the unusually strong and well orchestrated protests organized across India against his visit over allegations of war crimes and genocide. For some time now, Rajapaksa’s hardening stand on the ethnic issue, coupled with the increasingly authoritarian style of functioning has not endeared him to the minorities. Increasing anti-minority activities of Sinhala chauvinist elements particularly against anti-Muslim activities have added to their nervousness. Collectively these developments offered a wonderful opportunity to anti-Rajapaksa and pro-Eelam lobbies in Dravidian parties of different alphabetical prefixes in India to raise their voices against his visit in high decibel. 

The significance of the Communists as well as the as the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) backing the anti-Rajapaksa protests should not be missed. In a belated move, the Congress party also added its bit to this sentiment. Perhaps for the first time, nearly all political parties seem to be realizing the importance of the issue at the national level. 

The second was the President’s statement ruling out autonomy to Tamils three days before his visit which enabled anti-Rajapaksa protestors to gleefully point out “we told you so.” This ill timed statement beefed up the protestors. 

Clearly New Delhi was extremely uncomfortable with Rajapaksa’s visit particularly after he ruled out granting any political autonomy to Tamils of the North to resolve the political gridlock over devolution of powers in his independence day speech at Trincomalee on February 5. He said, “It is not practical for this country to have different administrations based on ethnicity. The solution is to live together in this country with equal rights for all communities.” 

This statement ripped off the last vestige of credibility in New Delhi’s Sri Lanka policy. Implementation of the 13thamendment in full as promised by him had been the only hope for New Delhi’s ruling coalition to save its face so far. It not only to kept its Dravidian partner DMK satisfied, but also saved a bit of Congress leaders’ reputation already tarnished in Tamil Nadu. The Congress party was not amused by Rajapaksa’s statement; this was evident from the Congress President Ms Sonia Gandhi’s January 30, 2013 reply to DMK leader Karunanidhi’s letter on the failure of Rajapaksa to live up to his promises. She said: "I share your concern regarding the disturbing developments in Sri Lanka vis-a-vis the Tamils. I shall take up the matter with the Minister of External Affairs (Salman Khurshid)." 

An imminent threat

Rajaram Panda
Feb 13, 2013 : 

The economy of the North-East is dependent on the Brahmaputra and the construction of three new dams might affect it.

The latest move by Beijing to construct three more dams on Brahmaputra river in Tibet, in addition to the one being built, has caused considerable disquiet of India as it has not been informed about the plans so far. A document listing projects to be completed in China’s 12th five-year-plan, a blueprint for the energy sector, approved by the Chinese cabinet made passing reference to the three hydropower bases on the Yarlung Tsangpo (Brahmaputra) river at Dagu, Jiacha and Jiexu on Brahmaputra without giving any details. Though the Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei clarified that China has always taken a responsible attitude towards the development of cross border rivers and that the project had gone through scientific planning and study with consideration of the interests of lower and upper stream countries, it has not assuaged the concerns of the lower riparian countries.

At a time when it appeared that India-China relations improved considerably in all areas of cooperation following National Security Advisor Shiv Shankar Menon’s recent visit to Beijing and talks with his counterpart Dai Bingguo, Beijing's decision on dam construction now threatens to undo the good work. Sharing of cross-border river waters had figured in the discussions but apparently China did not inform India of its plans to build the dams. Both Menon and Bingguo again met on the sidelines of BRICS security officials in New Delhi in January 2013.

One of the three new projects, approved by China at the State Council or Cabinet meeting on January 23, is reportedly bigger than the 510 MW dam at Zangmu that China has already been building. China argues that the dams are run of the river design and therefore would not be affecting the flows of the water. India is not convinced of the Chinese justification. 

Claiming that it had “established user rights” to the river, India asked China “to ensure that the interests of downstream states are not harmed by any activities in upstream areas.” China’s decision makes India believe that Beijing does not believe in engaging India on this. India’s stated position so far had been that it “agrees” with the Chinese statement that it would “not hurt India’s interests”. 

The ghost of Gwadar

by Amit Kumar 

Chinese control alarming for India

THE ghost of Gwadar is back, looming large again as China gears up to assume operational control of this strategic deep sea port close to the Strait of Hormuz. The recent decision of the Pakistani Cabinet to transfer the functional responsibility for this port from the Port of Singapore Authority (PSA) to a Chinese company (China's Overseas Port Holding) has sent alarming signals to India as this port has larger strategic implications. India is concerned as the port offers an exceptional much-desired strategic depth not only to Pakistan but also cements China's foothold in the Indian Ocean region. 

The move is a win-win situation for both Pakistan and China. For Pakistan, the Chinese takeover serves the purpose of closer Sino-Pak economic cooperation and possibly a greater engagement on security issues. A fully operational Gwadar port means the end of near-total dependence on a relatively vulnerable Karachi. Even prior to the completion, Pakistan had started considering Gwadar as an important naval base after Karachi and Ormara in an attempt to improve Pakistan's maritime security posture. 

Karachi, which lies about 470 km east of Gwadar, was effectively blockaded during the India-Pakistan war of 1971. Gwadar, located much further to the west, away from the Indian coast, will certainly provide a safe alternative for Pakistan to improve military flexibility. 

For the Chinese, Gwadar has the strategic significance of being close to the Strait of Hormuz. The Gwadar-Karakoram link road will offer strategic access to the Indian Ocean as well as greater economic benefits to its restive Xinjiang province. It will also allow Beijing to ensure better security of its energy shipments along the existing maritime links and oil imports from the Gulf to the Xinjiang region through overland. 

Perhaps, the proposed multi-modal Gwadar-Kashgar road, rail and gas- oil pipeline links will put to rest the much discussed China's Malacca dilemma. Besides, on the security front with a listening post, China will be able to monitor US naval activities in the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Aden, activities of the Indian Navy and future India-US cooperation in the Arabian Sea. 

The next tango with Paris

By C. Raja Mohan 
Feb 14 2013

India, France must integrate the strands of bilateral cooperation in the maritime domain

There will be much to celebrate when the president of France, Francois Hollande, arrives in Delhi on Valentine's Day to review the state of bilateral relations with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and chart out an ambitious future course. 

Two decades of political romance with Paris has produced one of the most productive bilateral relationships for Delhi. By choosing India as one of the first major foreign destinations, Hollande is signalling his determination to deepen the partnership that was founded and built by his two predecessors, Nicolas Sarkozy and Jacques Chirac. Whether it was Delhi's integration into the global nuclear order or the recognition that its rise on the global stage is inevitable, it was Paris that first articulated big new ideas about India in the last two decades. This week, the two leaders have work to do finalising the terms for many large transformative projects that are in the pipeline. Two of them have grabbed most of the headlines. 

One is the plan to build six large nuclear reactors in Jaitapur, Maharashtra. Besides the reactors, France is committed to developing "full civil nuclear cooperation" with India. Delhi expects French cooperation in building commercial uranium enrichment facilities that would fuel the new Indian reactors as well supply other nuclear power stations in the region. More broadly, the civil nuclear collaboration between Delhi and Paris could help develop India as a joint base for providing nuclear services in Asia and beyond. 

The other is the deal to supply 126 Rafale medium multi-role combat aircraft (MMRCA) to the Indian Air Force. This is not just a one-time transaction to equip the IAF with modern fighters but facilitates a significant expansion of India's defence industrial base. In the civilian nuclear arena as well as in defence, France promises to differentiate itself from other suppliers on the critical question of technology transfer. This makes the role of France a very special one in the development of India's strategic capabilities. 

Prime Minister Singh and President Hollande are not expected to dot the many 'i's and cross the 't's of the two agreements. Their task is to recognise the special salience of the current moment in bilateral relations, demonstrate maximum flexibility in what each has to offer and push the two bureaucracies into clinching final agreements. Hollande needs early closure as part of his effort to revive the sclerotic economic growth in France, and the PM can't afford endless haggling, the default Indian negotiating style, on these two strategic projects. 

Accountability of Intelligence Agencies

Paper No. 5390 ,13 Feb 2013 
By B. Raman

1. Intelligence agencies have to be accountable to the Executive. Otherwise, there will be no secrecy in their functioning. Without effective secrecy, there cannot be clandestine collection of intelligence having a bearing on national security. Nowhere in the world ---not even in the much cited US--- is the executive not primarily responsible for the effective functioning of the clandestine agencies. 

2. However, in an increasing number of democracies, the Executive voluntarily shares with the legislature part of the responsibility for monitoring the performance of the secret agencies to ensure their competence to protect national security and to prevent wrong-doings. 

3. In the US, the Executive and the Congress negotiate from time to time the ground rules for sharing this responsibility. The ground rules are so designed that in the anxiety to provide for accountability, the capability of the agencies to function as the clandestine arm of the State is not blunted. 

4. The US Congress now has the following powers in respect of the agencies of the intelligence community:
  • To satisfy itself regarding the professional suitability of the heads of the agencies. The Senate Intelligence Oversight Committee goes into the suitability of designated heads and has to confirm their appointment. 
  • To go into the overall budgetary allocations for different agencies and satisfy itself that correct national security priorities are observed in making the allocations. The Congress does not, however, go into allocations for individual clandestine operations. For example, the Congressional Oversight Committees decide whether allocations made for monitoring nuclear developments in North Korea are adequate and appropriate, but cannot go into how the allocations are utilized on individual operations. 
  • To examine the intelligence produced by the agencies to satisfy itself that they adequately meet the national security needs.
  • To enquire into instances of wrong-doing by the intelligence agencies. 

Afzal Guru’s Execution: An Unfortunate Yardstick

By B. Raman

1. It will be incorrect to compare the execution of Ajmal Kasab, Pakistani member of the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET), for his involvement in the 26/11 terrorist strikes in Mumbai, with that of Afzal Guru, an Indian citizen from Jammu and Kashmir for his involvement in the terrorist attack on the Indian Parliament on December 13, 2001, believed to have been mounted by the Jaish-e-Mohammad.(JEM), a Pakistani jihadi organization. 

2. Kasab was a Pakistani citizen who was a member of the LET. He had voluntarily got himself trained by the LET for participating in the execution of the terrorist strike. He was one of the perpetrators who was seen carrying out the killings. The evidence against him was direct and documentary in the form of video recordings. There were no grounds for doubt and no mitigating factors. 

3. In the case of Afzal Guru, the evidence produced by the prosecution before the court clearly showed he was a conspirator and an accomplice, who had facilitated the attack on the Parliament by voluntarily providing logistics assistance to the JEM perpetrators who carried out the attack. However, whereas Kasab was a perpetrator, Afzal Guru was an accomplice and facilitator, who did not actively participate in the attack on the ground. 

4. The gravity of the JEM attack on the Parliament was as serious as that of the LET attack in Mumbai. Nobody can question the appropriateness of the death penalty awarded to him.

5. However, there were many mitigating factors in the case of Guru. He was an Indian citizen from an alienated province of India. He was not known to have been an active member of any jihadi terrorist organization of India. He had reportedly undergone training in Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir as a member of the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) in the early 1990s, but the JKLF has since dissociated itself from acts of terrorism. He had no previous record of involvement in any act of mass casualty terrorism in Indian territory. He was an accomplice and not a perpetrator. 

Some disturbing questions on Westland helicopter deal

By Col. R. Hariharan

The arrest of Giuseppe Orsi, the chief executive of Italy’s largest aerospace group Finmeccanica in Italy as part of an investigation into alleged corruption in international defence deals has once again put the focus back on yet another case of corruption in India’s defence procurement. 

According to media reports the arrested CEO is alleged to have paid $670 million crores) in bribes for the sale of 12 Augusta Westland helicopters to India. However, both the company and the arrested CEO have denied paying any bribes. Earlier reports had indicated the possible involvement of a Swiss-based consultant in this murky deal. 

As soon as the news of the arrest hit the media circuit, AK Antony of Defence has ordered a CBI investigation, though he had known as early as April 2012 that there were serious allegations of corruption in the procurement of these helicopters. At that time he had said he would "seriously" pursue the inquiry into the allegations of corruption in the chopper deal. "When previously the reports appeared, I had asked the Defence Secretary to immediately inquire into it. He wrote to the Indian Ambassador in Italy and he got the report," Mr. Antony said. 

The issue again came up on the sidelines of the meeting of the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) in October 2012. At that time also the Ministry of Defence said it had once again taken up the matter with the Italian government to provide details of the existence of any middlemen or any individual or Indian entity in the contract for helicopters from Augusta Westland for VVIP use. The name of a serving Brigadier of Indian army also was mentioned for his suspected involvement in the deal. 

Ironically, in the same meeting Defence Minster Antony asked the three services to adopt fair and transparent manners while carrying out procurements.

India's compass on terror is faulty

 by kanwal sibal

Afzal Guru’s hanging shows the ineptness with which our political system deals with the grave problem of terrorism. The biggest challenge to our security, and indeed that of countries all over the world that are caught in the cross currents of religious extremism, is terrorism. 

India’s problem with externally supported terrorism is amongst the severest that any country faces. Our next door neighbour has been long using terrorism as an instrument of state policy. 

Traditional military threats can be assessed on the basis of the size of the armed forces, equipment and logistics available to the adversary. A militarily weak country would normally hesitate to attack a stronger one as defeat is never honourable and the price could be loss of territory. A casus belli has to be established to negate any charge of unprovoked aggression; the laws of war are applicable. The international community can intervene through the UN or otherwise against a state resorting to military aggression. 


Terrorism has a different logic. It is asymmetric warfare by non-state actors outside any law. The numbers involved are small and the targets are unsuspecting and unprepared individuals in the street, in public transport, hotels or restaurants or peaceful public spaces. Suicide bombers and car bombs can cause substantial casualties indiscriminately. Shadowy groups with leaders in hiding orchestrate these attacks. The involvement of state institutions through groups nurtured by them is on the basis of the practiced art of deniability. The international community cannot even agree on the definition of terrorism. The extraordinary challenge that terrorism poses to societies has to be dealt with exceptional levels of alertness, discipline, training of personnel, technical capacity, policing and organisational response. 

India’s problem with externally supported terrorism is amongst the severest that any country faces. Our next door neighbour has been long using terrorism as an instrument of state policy. Even if some countries like Libya were accused of supporting terrorism, the acts imputed to them were not so blatant, wide-spread and persistent as those of Pakistan-based terrorists against India. North Korea has been accused of sporadic terrorist acts and Iran has supposedly targetted political opponents abroad and supported terrorist groups attacking Israel, but the Israeli-Arab confrontation has no parallel with the reasons for Pakistan’s animosity towards India and North Korea and Iran have no territorial claims that they seek to advance through terrorism. Pakistan supports terrorism to destabilize India, to make governance in Kashmir as difficult as possible, to nourish separatism there, to cause a communal divide in India. It is also a consequence of the deepening Islamisation of its society. 

China’s Gwadar plunge

By Harsh V Pant
Feb 12, 2013

The Indian Ocean is going to be the theatre where great power politics will be at its most pristine in the coming years. 

The Pakistani government last week gave its nod to a proposal for a company owned by the Chinese government, China Overseas Port Holdings Limited, to purchase control of the Gwadar port from Singapore’s PSA International, which had won the contract in 2007 to operate the port for 40 years. With this, the operational control of the strategic deep-water Gwadar port will go to China. New Delhi’s reaction was as confused as ever with the Indian Defence Minister describing it as a matter of “serious concern” for India but the External Affairs Minister suggesting that India should not “overreact to everything that Pakistan does or everything that China is involved in.”

China has always been keen on gaining a strategic toehold in the Arabian Sea and Gwadar has been an attractive option. Despite its problems, the Sino-Pak military collaboration too has been proceeding apace. Despite some suggesting that China’s role in Gwadar would remain limited because of mounting troubles in Baluchistan and its keenness to avoid raising hackles in New Delhi and Washington, China has now taken the plunge into the murky waters of Gwadar. The Gwadar port, opened in 2007 with a $200 million funding from China, has been a commercial failure so far because of the inability of Pakistan to use it effectively. But where Beijing has repeatedly played down the significance of Chinese role in Gwadar, many in Pakistani establishment have gone to the extent of explicitly asking China to build a base at Gwadar.

China wants to overcome its ‘Malacca Dilemma’ as more than 80 per cent of its oil imports travels through the Straits of Hormuz. Given its reluctance to rely on US naval power for unhindered access to energy, it has moved to build up its naval power at choke points along the sea routes from the Persian Gulf to the South China Sea. The Gwadar port is central to this aim. Situated about 400 kilometres away from the Straits of Hormuz at the apex of the Arabian Sea, it can be a key asset for China. No doubt, the Gwadar port will need significant infrastructure investment before it can be viable but this is not an insurmountable problem. There are plans to build a 900 kilometre road for overland transport from Gwadar to China as well as rail and road links to Afghanistan and Central Asia.

China's Provocative Blunder in the Pacific

By PATRICK SMITH, The Fiscal Times 
February 11, 2013 

Chinese demonstrate against Japan over disputed islandsPhoto: REUTERS/David Gray 

China is now making East Asia as unsafe as it possibly can. Tokyo and Beijing are not that far from blows over a few forsaken rocks in the East China Sea. Is Beijing behaving badly because it wants to flex its muscles at the expense of a traditional adversary? For a century and more, China’s leaders have sought a galvanizing enemy whenever they have felt uncertain at home.

Xi Jinping will usher a new generation of leaders into office when he assumes the presidency next month. He is known already to be of a more forceful disposition than Hu Jintao, his predecessor. But Xi and his colleagues will sit in office more insecurely than anyone at least since Deng Xiaoping began the reform period three decades ago. And this insecurity is the source of China’s erratic, immature behavior. 

Make no mistake about the gravity of this suddenly frightening state of affairs. The world’s three largest economies—the U.S., China, and Japan—are densely networked and interdependent, and they are all at risk given the U.S. pledge to aid Japan if it is attacked. Not surprisingly, 

American diplomats have rushed to Tokyo and Beijing to try to resolve the ridiculous territorial dispute that has led to this escalating mess. 

Tokyo has just charged the Chinese navy with aiming weapons-guiding radar at one of its warships. If it is true—Beijing denies the accusation—it does not get a great deal more provocative. The Japanese navy and air force say they are now prepared to fire warning shots in their future encounters. 

100th Tibetan self-immolation protest reported in Nepal

By Ananth Krishnan
February 13, 2013 

Nepalese policemen rush towards a Tibetan Buddhist monk, who self immolated near the Boudhanath Stupa in Katmandu on Wednesday. 

Tibetans in China chose not to celebrate New Year

A monk in Nepal on Wednesday became the 100th Tibetan to carry out a self-immolation protest since 2009, even as Beijing moved to prevent them from spreading, warning of heavy punishment. Police in Kathmandu said a Tibetan, thought to be in his twenties, set himself on fire in a restaurant near the Boudhanath Stupa, an important religious site. 

Police spokesman Keshav Adhikari told Agence France-Presse, “a man in his early 20s” arrived at the restaurant at 8.20 a.m. local time and “went straight to the toilet and poured petrol over his body and set himself alight”. He managed to run to the foot of the stupa, he said, before police doused the flames and sent him, in a critical condition, to a hospital. A Tibetan activist in Kathmandu — home to at least 20,000 Tibetans — told AFP that the protest was “a sacrifice for the Tibetan people’s struggle for freedom”. 

Second in Kathmandu

Wednesday’s protest was the second by a Tibetan in Kathmandu, and the 100th self-immolation reported by overseas groups since 2009. 

Nepal: Maoists Suggest a Neutral Government under the Chief Justice

by Dr S Chandrasekharan

Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai met President Yadav on 10 Feb 2013 and told him that since the political parties failed to forge a consensus for leading the government to conduct the elections, his party has floated the proposal to form a government under the leadership of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Khil Raj Regmi. 

The reaction of President Yadav is not known, but it is presumed that he would formally consult other party leaders before taking a decision. 

Before meeting the President, PM Bhattarai claimed that the proposal to form a neutral government under the Chief Justice would be the last proposal from his party and that if the opposition parties refuse his party will not float any other proposal. 

As before, Dahal, the freshly anointed Chairman of UCPN (M) made a ‘flip flop’ claiming that the Chief Justice is not the only candidate for the PM. He was later contradicted by his own General Secretary Post Bahadur Bogoti as well as the Prime Minister himself. Bhattarai told the media persons after his meeting with the President that they consider the judiciary as an independent institution and could ensure a "free and fair" election. 

Unfortunately, except the top leaders of the Nepali Congress and the UML, leaders of all the parties including the second rung of the NC and UML leadership have rejected the proposal on some ground or other, but none of the reasons given by them appear to be justified. 

Sher Bahadur Deuba and R.C Paudel of the Nepali Congress, Ishwor Pokharel and K.P. Sharma Oli of UML, and Pasupathi Samsher Rana and Dr. P.C. Lohani of RPP have all expressed their opposition to the idea as they feel that since Maoists exercise complete influence over institutions like the Army, Police, Civil service, a free and a fair election cannot be ensured! 

Why ‘composite dialogue’?

by G. Parthasarathy
14 Feb 2013

It’s better to focus on terrorism

FOR nearly a decade, the UPA government has depended exclusively on two pillars to deal with Pakistan-sponsored terrorism. The first is a pillar called the "composite dialogue process", which has been proclaimed as "irreversible" and "uninterruptable". The second pillar is the belief that fearing further terrorist attacks, after the 9/11 strikes on New York and Washington, the Western world, led by the US, will pressurise Pakistan to end its support for groups promoting terrorism in India, Afghanistan and beyond. We are told that there is no alternative to the "composite dialogue"' for peace and security. Is this really true? 

Pakistan's sponsorship of terrorism, described as "low-intensity conflict" in military manuals, assumed serious dimensions in Punjab in the 1980s. This was followed by a resort to terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir since 1990. Terrorism spread across India after the 1993 Mumbai bomb blasts, personally approved by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. By 1995, Chief Minister Beant Singh had effectively quelled militancy in Punjab. But even today, Punjab militants who were not eliminated live comfortably in Lahore. Encouraged by the antipathy of the Clinton Administration towards India, Benazir Bhutto ended all dialogue with India in 1994. Terrorism in J&K continued unabated, but the Pakistanis soon discovered during the tenure of Prime Minister Narasimha Rao that acts of terrorism elsewhere in India resulted in violence in populated centres like Karachi and Lahore. Terrorism in Indian urban centres thereafter declined and virtually ended. 

Inder Kumar Gujral then came to preside over the Indian foreign policy. Knowing his nostalgia for his land of birth and keenness for dialogue, Pakistan came forward with a proposal in 1997 for a "structured dialogue". Rather than insisting on giving priority to terrorism, Gujral agreed to a dialogue process giving priority to issues like Jammu and Kashmir, while discussions on terrorism were downplayed and combined with issues of drug smuggling! The Pakistani aim was to ensure that discussions on Jammu and Kashmir inevitably failed and to then seek internationalisation of the issue. When Vajpayee assumed charge and international pressures grew after the nuclear tests, the NDA government was left with little choice but to go ahead with what Gujral had initiated. It agreed to a "composite dialogue process" with Pakistan — a process where terrorism was merely the fourth item on the agenda, clubbed with drug smuggling.